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Jain meditation has been the central practice of spirituality in Jainism along with the Three Jewels. Meditation in Jainism aims at realizing the self, attain salvation, take the soul to complete freedom. It aims to reach and to remain in the pure state of soul which is believed to be pure conscious, beyond any attachment or aversion. The practitioner strives to be just a knower-seer (Gyata-Drashta). Jain meditation can be broadly categorized to the auspicious (Dharmya Dhyana and Shukla Dhyana) and inauspicious (Artta and Raudra Dhyana).
Jain meditation is also referred as Sāmāyika. The word Sāmāyika means being in the moment of continuous real-time. This act of being conscious of the continual renewal of the universe in general and one's own renewal of the individual living being (Jiva) in particular is the critical first step in the journey towards identification with one's true nature, called the Atman. It is also a method by which one can develop an attitude of harmony and respect towards other humans and Nature.
Rishabhanatha, the first Tirthankara in Jainism practiced meditation and attained enlightenment at Mount Kailash. Bahubali, son of Rishabha, practiced meditation for twelve months maintaining same standing posture. King Bharata, elder son of Rishabha, entered a trance state by fixing his gaze on his image in the mirror and got deep into meditation and finally attained enlightenment. Fixing the gaze on an object for meditation has been an important technique of Jainism.
Jains believe all twenty-four Tirthankaras practiced deep meditation, some for years, some for months and attained enlightenment. All the statues and pictures of Tirthankaras primarily show them in meditative postures.
Acharya Bhadrabahu of 400 BCE, practiced Mahaprana meditation for twelve years. Description of practice of samadhi meditation by many other acharya is also found. Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of Maurya Empire, was Acharya Bhadrabahu's disciple and became a monk. He later migrated to South India and it helped Jainism to spread there. Bhadrabahu also took Chandragupta Maurya to South India along with him. A holistic approach to the path of salvation was written and compiled in a single book, the Tattvartha Sutra by Acharya Umaswati.
Acharya Bhadrabahu II, Jinbhadra, and Pujyapada Devanandi were great spiritual experts during the period of the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries CE. They made remarkable contributions through their literature. Haribhadra in the 8th century and Acharya Hemachandra in the 12th century, presented meditation through different approaches and viewpoints. During the 18th century, Acharya Vinay Vijay wrote Shantsudharasa on contemplation practices. Upadhyaaya Yashovijay in the same century wrote extensively on meditation.
The name Samayika, the term for Jain meditation, is derived from the term samaya "time" in Prakrit. Jains also use samayika to denote the practice of meditation. The aim of Samayika is to transcend our daily experiences as the "constantly changing" human beings, called Jiva, and allow identification with the "changeless" reality in practitioner, called the atman. One of the main goals of Samayika is to inculcate equanimity, to see all the events equanimously. It encourages to be consistently spiritually vigilant. Samayaika is practiced in all the Jain sects and communities. Samayika is an important practice during Paryushana, a special eight- or ten-day period.
In Jainism, six essential duties are prescribed for a śrāvaka (householder), out of which one duty is Samayika. These help the laity in achieving the principle of ahimsa which is necessary for his/her spiritual upliftment. The sāmayika vrata (vow to meditate) is intended to be observed three times a day if possible; other-wise at least once daily. Its objective is to enable the śrāvaka to abstain from all kinds of sins during the period of time fixed for its observance. The usual duration of the sāmayika vow is an antara mūharta (a period of time not exceeding 48 minutes).  During this period, which the layman spends in study and meditation, he vows to refrain from the commission of the five kinds of sin — injury, falsehood, theft, unchastity and love of material possessions in any of the three ways. These three ways are:-
- by an act of mind, speech or body (krita),
- inciting others to commit such an act (kārita),
- approving the commission of such an act by others (anumodanā).
In performing sāmayika the śrāvaka has to stand facing north or east and bow to the Pañca-Parameṣṭhi. He then sit down and recites the Namokara mantra a certain number of times, and finally devotes himself to holy meditation. This consists in:
- pratikramana, recounting the sins committed and repenting for them,
- pratyākhyanā, resolving to avoid particular sins in future,
- sāmayika karma, renunciation of personal attachments, and the cultivation of a feeling of regarding every body and thing alike,
- stuti, praising the four and twenty Tīrthankaras,
- vandanā, devotion to a particular Tirthankara, and
- kāyotsarga, withdrawal of attention from the body (physical personality) and becoming absorbed in the contemplation of the spiritual Self.
Sāmayika can be performed anywhere- a temple, private residence, forest and the like. But the place shouldn't be open to disturbance. According to the Jain text, Ratnakaranda śrāvakācāra, while performing sāmayika, one should meditate on:
"I am involved in the saṃsāra (cycle of transmigration) in which there is no protection for souls, which is inauspicious, transitory and full of pain, and of the nature of not-Self; moksha is the opposite of this"-thus should one meditate while performing sāmayika.— Ratnakaranda śrāvakācāra (104)
The ascetic has to perform the sāmāyika three times a day. Champat Rai Jain in his book, The Key of Knowledge wrote:
The ascetic who has successfully passed through the preliminary stages of renunciation, as a householder, is expected to be an embodiment of desirelessness itself, so that his whole life is, as it were, a continuous sāmāyika from one end to the other.
Jain texts prescribe meditation on twelve forms of reflection (bhāvanā) for those who wish to stop the influx of karmas that extend transmigration. These twelve reflections are:
1. anitya bhāvanā – the transitoriness of the world;
2. aśaraņa bhāvanā – the helplessness of the soul; According to the Jain text, Sarvārthasiddhi:
|“||There is no escape for the young one of a deer pounced upon by a hungry tiger fond of the flesh of animals. Similarly, there is no way of escape for the self caught in the meshes of birth, old age, death, disease and sorrow. Even the stout body is helpful in the presence of food, but not in the presence of distress. And wealth acquired by great effort does not accompany the self to the next birth. The friends who have shared the joys and sorrows of an individual cannot save him at his death. His relations all united together cannot give him relief when he is afflicted by ailment. But if he accumulates merit or virtue, it will help him to cross the ocean of misery. Even the lord of devas cannot help anyone at the point of death. Therefore virtue is the only means of succour to one in the midst of misery. Friends, wealth, etc. are also transient. And so there is nothing else except virtue which offers succour to the self. To contemplate thus is the reflection on helplessness. He, who is distressed at the thought that he is utterly helpless, does not identify himself with thoughts of worldly existence. And endeavours to march on the path indicated by the Omniscient Lord.||”|
3. saṃsāra – the pain and suffering implied in transmigration;
4. aikatva bhāvanā – the inability of another to share one’s suffering and sorrow;
5. anyatva bhāvanā – the distinctiveness between the body and the soul;
6. aśuci bhāvanā – the filthiness of the body;
7. āsrava bhāvanā – influx of karmic matter;
8. saṃvara bhāvanā – stoppage of karmic matter;
9. nirjarā bhāvanā – gradual shedding of karmic matter;
10. loka bhāvanā – the form and divisions of the universe and the nature of the conditions prevailing in the different regions – heavens, hells, and the like;
11. bodhidurlabha bhāvanā – the extreme difficulty in obtaining human birth and, subsequently, in attaining true faith; and
12. dharma bhāvanā – the truth promulgated by Lord Jina.
Preksha meditation is the practice of purifying the emotions and conscious (chitta) and realizing the own self. It helps in leading a peaceful life and is a system of meditation for attitudinal change, behavioral modification and integrated development of personality.
The word "preksha" means "to perceive carefully and profoundly". In preksha, perception always means experience bereft of the duality of like and dislike, pleasure and pain. Impartiality and equanimity are synonymous with preksha. Preksha is impartial perception, where there is neither the emotion of attachment nor aversion, neither pleasure or displeasure. Both these states of emotion are closely and carefully perceived but not experienced. And because both are perceived from close quarters, it is not difficult to reject both of them and assume a neutral position. Thus equanimity is essentially associated with preksha.
Important disciplines in the system are - Synchrony of mental and physical actions or simply present mindedness or complete awareness of one's actions, disciplining the reacting attitude, friendliness, diet, silence, spiritual vigilance.
Existing and Historical meditation techniques in Jainism
According to the some commonly practiced yoga systems, high concentration is reached by meditating in an easy (preferably lotus) posture in seclusion and staring without blinking at the rising sun, a point on the wall, or the tip of the nose, and as long as one can keep the mind away from the outer world, this strengthens concentration. Garuda is the name Jainism gives to the yoga of self-discipline and discipline of mind, body and speech, so that even earth, water, fire and air can come under one’s control. Śiva is in Jainism control over the passions and the acquisition of such self-discipline that under all circumstances equanimity is maintained.
Prānayāma – breathing exercises – are performed to strengthen the flows of life energy. Through this, the elements of the constitution – earth, water, fire and air – are also strengthened. At the same time the five chakras are controlled. Prānayāma also helps to stabilize one’s thinking and leads to unhampered direct experience of the events around us.
Next one practices pratyāhāra. Pratyāhāra means that one directs the senses away from the enjoyment of sensual and mental objects. The senses are part of the nervous system, and their task is to send data to the brain through which the mind as well as the soul is provided with information. The mind tends to enjoy this at the cost of the soul as well as the body. Pratyāhāra is obtained by focusing the mind on one point for the purpose of receiving impulses: on the eyes, ears, tip of the nose, the brow, the navel, the head, the heart or the palate.
Giving up the company of all householders whomsoever, he meditated. Asked, he gave no answer; he went, and did not transgress the right path. (AS 312) In these places was the wise Sramana for thirteen long years; he meditated day and night, exerting himself, undisturbed, strenuously. (AS 333) And Mahavira meditated (persevering) in some posture, without the smallest motion; he meditated in mental concentration on (the things) above, below, beside, free from desires. He meditated free from sin and desire, not attached to sounds or colours; though still an erring mortal (khadmastha), he wandered about, and never acted carelessly.(AS 374-375)
After more than twelve years of austerities and meditation, Mahavira entered the state of Kevala Jnana while doing shukla dhayana, the highest form of meditation:
The Venerable Ascetic Mahavira passed twelve years in this way of life; during the thirteenth year in the second month of summer, in the fourth fortnight, the light (fortnight) of Vaisakha, on its tenth day called Suvrata, in the Muhurta called Vigaya, while the moon was in conjunction with the asterism Uttaraphalguni, when the shadow had turned towards the east, and the first wake was over, outside of the town Grimbhikagrama, on the northern bank of the river Rigupalika, in the field of the householder Samaga, in a north-eastern direction from an old temple, not far from a Sal tree, in a squatting position with joined heels exposing himself to the heat of the sun, with the knees high and the head low, in deep meditation, in the midst of abstract meditation, he reached Nirvana, the complete and full, the unobstructed, unimpeded, infinite and supreme best knowledge and intuition, called Kevala.
Acharya Mahapragya, the 10th Head of Jain Swetamber Terapanth sect, formulated a well-organized meditation system known as preksha meditation in the 1970s. The system consists of the perception of the breath, body, the psychic centres, psychic colors, thought and of contemplation processes which can initiate the process of personal transformation. A few important contemplation themes are - Impermanence, Solitariness, Vulnerability. It aims at reaching and purifying the deeper levels of existence. Regular practice is believed to strengthen the immune system and build up stamina to resist against aging, pollution, viruses, diseases. Meditation practice is an important part of the daily lives of the religion's monks.
Contemplation is an important wing in Jain meditation. The practitioner meditates or reflects deeply on subtle facts or philosophical aspects. The first type is Agnya vichāya, in which one meditates deeply on the seven elementary facts - life and non-life, the inflow, bondage, stoppage and removal of karmas, and the final accomplishment of liberation. The second is Apaya vichāya, in which incorrect insights and behavior in which “sleeping souls” indulge, are reflected upon. The third is Vipaka vichāya dharma dhyāna, in which one reflects on the eight causes or basic types of karma. The fourth is Sansathan vichāya dharma dhyāna, when one thinks about the vastness of the universe and the loneliness of the soul, which has had to face the results of its own causes all alone. A few important contemplation themes in Preksha meditation are - Impermanence, Solitariness, Vulnerability.
In pindāstha-dhyāna one imagines oneself sitting all alone in the middle of a vast ocean of milk on a lotus flower, meditating on the soul. There are no living beings around whatsoever. The lotus is identical to Jambūdvīpa, with Mount Meru as its stalk. Next the meditator imagines a 16-petalled lotus at the level of his navel, and on each petal are printed the (Sanskrit) letters “arham“ and also an inverted lotus of 8 petals at the location of his heart. Suddenly the lotus on which one is seated flares up at the navel and flames gradually rise up to the inverted lotus, burning its petals with a rising golden flame which not only burns his or her body, but also the inverted lotus at the heart. The flames rise further up to the throat whirling in the shape of a swastika and then reach the head, burning it entirely, while taking the form of a three-sided pyramid of golden flames above the head, piercing the skull sharp end straight up. The whole physical body is charred, and everything turns into glowing ashes. Thus the pinda or body is burnt off and the pure soul survives. Then suddenly a strong wind blows off all the ashes; and one imagines that a heavy rain shower washes all the ashes away, and the pure soul remains seated on the lotus. That pure Soul has infinite virtues, it is Myself. Why should I get polluted at all? One tries to remain in his purest nature. This is called pindāstha dhyāna, in which one ponders the reality of feeling and experiencing.
In padāstha dhyāna one focuses on some mantras, words or themes. Couple of important mantra examples are, OM - it signifies remembrance of the five classes of spiritual beings (the embodied and non-embodied Jinas, the ascetics, the monks and the nuns), pronouncing the word “Arham” makes one feel “I myself am the omniscient soul” and one tries to improve one’s character accordingly. One may also pronounce the holy name of an arhat and concentrate on the universal richness of the soul.
In rūpāstha dhyāna one reflects on the embodiments of arihants, the svayambhuva (the self-realized), the omniscients and other enlightened people and their attributes, such as three umbrellas and whiskers – as seen in many icons – unconcerned about one’s own body, but almighty and benevolent to all living beings, destroyer of attachment, enmity, etc. Thus the meditator as a human being concentrates his or her attention on the virtues of the omniscients to acquire the same virtues for himself.
Rūpātita dhyāna is a meditation in which one focuses on bodiless objects such as the liberated souls or siddhas, which stand individually and collectively for the infinite qualities that such souls have earned. That omniscient, potent, omnipresent, liberated and untainted soul is called a nirañjāna, and this stage can be achieved by right vision, right knowledge and right conduct only. Right vision, right knowledge and right conduct begin the fourth stage of the 14-fold path.
The ultimate aim of such yoga and meditation is to pave the way for the spiritual elevation and salvation of the soul. Some yogis develop their own methods for meditation.
There are various common postures for meditation like Padmasana, Ardh-Padmasana, Vajrasana, Sukhasana, standing, lying down that can be adopted. The 24 Tirthankaras are always seen in one of these two postures in the Kayotsarga standing or Padmasana/Paryankasana.
According to Tattvarthasutra, 2nd century CE Jain text, yoga is the sum of all the activities of mind, speech and body. Umasvati calls yoga the cause of "asrava" or karmic influx as well as one of the essentials—samyak caritra—in the path to liberation. In his Niyamasara, Acarya Kundakunda, describes yoga bhakti—devotion to the path to liberation—as the highest form of devotion. Acarya Haribhadra and Acarya Hemacandra mention the five major vows of ascetics and 12 minor vows of laity under yoga. This has led certain Indologists like Prof. Robert J. Zydenbos to call Jainism, essentially, a system of yogic thinking that grew into a full-fledged religion. The five yamas or the constraints of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali bear a resemblance to the five major vows of Jainism, indicating a history of strong cross-fertilization between these traditions.[a]
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